New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal signed a new attorney general directive on Thursday morning that limits the scope of cooperation between New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers and federal immigration authorities.
In his opening remarks during the press event at the historic Jersey Central Railroad Terminal at Liberty State Park, Grewal took aim at U. S. President Donald Trump (R) and his administration’s current immigration policies as the impetus behind the new directive.
“Today, we’re announcing new rules to strengthen trust between New Jersey law enforcement and our state’s diverse immigrant communities. We are issuing new rules that draw a bright line between federal/civil immigration authorities on the one hand and state and local law enforcement officers on the other. We’re telling our friends and our neighbors who have been living in fear that you can trust state law enforcement, you can trust state prosecutors here in New Jersey,” said Grewal.
Grewal explained that the new directive involves “a simple approach” in how New Jersey’s police officers, sheriff officers, corrections officers and prosecutors should interact with federal immigration authorities.
“We are limiting the types of voluntary assistance that we will provide to federal, civil immigration authorities and in doing so we are telling our state law enforcement agencies to focus their resources on their core priorities, such as solving crimes and protecting the public, rather than advancing Washington’s immigration agenda,” Grewal said.
He then proceeded to discuss some of the provisions of the new Immigrant Trust Directive that will go into effect in March of 2019, and that all of New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies must abide by that time.
They include, among others, the “inability to stop, question, arrest, search or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status,” as well as “cannot participate in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases or property, unless those resources are readily available to the public.”
Grewal was quick to note and to criticize critics of the new directive who say that it will turn New Jersey into a sanctuary state whereby undocumented immigrants with a criminal record will be able to reside without fear of being charged or prosecuted by law enforcement.
“Nothing in this directive provides sanctuary to those who commit crimes in New Jersey. If you break the law in New Jersey, if you assault someone, if you rob someone, if you defraud someone, we will hold you accountable no matter your immigration status. Let me say that again and be crystal clear about this. If you break the law in New Jersey, we will go after you no matter your immigration status. No one gets a free pass.”
At the same time, he tried to dispel the notion, however, that the state’s law enforcement agencies are currently working with ICE, which is instilling fear in immigrant communities.
“That is not the case. We want people to report crimes without fear of being deported, we want them to come and testify without being fearful that an ICE officer is waiting for them to remove them. This is to build trust, and trust is good for public safety, it’s good for the safety of all New Jerseyans.”
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement soon after the directive was announced, expressing their support.
“Every New Jerseyan should be able to raise their children, go to work, and contribute to their communities without the fear that an ordinary interaction with police could derail their lives,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Supervising Attorney Alexander Shalom. “Because of this directive, everyone in our state can feel more secure in their rights and safer in their communities.”
And in an interview after the press conference, Jersey City Chief of Police Mike Kelly expressed support too.
“I just think we really want to pull out the positives for us in terms of the trust component in the community. We’ve really tried hard to roll out community policing, improve neighborhood relationships with the police department…become more assimilated with the community and have them trust us, so I think this is a really large piece for a specific community, the immigrant community.”